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"Justice" to celebrate pioneer women

Lisa Reihana to sculpture to grace Pioneer Women's Hall

Published: 4 March 2016

Artist Lisa Reihana (Ngāpuhi, Ngati Hine, Ngāi Tu) has been commissioned to create a permanent public art work as part of Auckland Council’s revitalisation of the Pioneer Women’s and Ellen Melville Hall.

The project, along with the redevelopment of Freyberg Square, will help create a new community hub in the heart of the city centre’s High Street precinct.

The art work entitled “Justice” references the life of Ellen Melville, a prominent advocate for women participating fully in public life during the first half of last century. Melville was one of the country’s first female lawyers and in 1913 became the first woman elected to a city council in New Zealand, serving as an Auckland City councillor for thirty-three years.

The sculpture – in bronze - will be installed on the hall’s O’Connell St façade and employs the well-known symbol of the “scales of justice” positioned above a decorative wall drawing.

“Having an artist of Lisa Reihana’s stature attached to the project is a fantastic outcome”, says Mark Osborne, Auckland Council’s Arts & Culture Senior Project Manager.

“Lisa’s concept acknowledges the role of pioneering women in Auckland and enhances the historic architecture of this much admired community facility.”

Thirty-seven artists responded to an open call for expressions of interest in October last year.

A shortlist of three artists produced concept designs which were considered by a review panel including two members from the National Council of Women, a member of the Melville family, the project architect, an iwi representative from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and council staff. The selection panel’s recommendation was presented to the Waitematā local board arts portfolio holder on 11 November who endorsed the selection.

“The upgrade of O’Connell Street and Freyberg Square will give Aucklanders a great place to meet or take a break in the inner city. Lisa Reihana’s sculpture tells the story of a great Aucklander as well as linking the future of the square to its past,” says Waitematā Local Board chair Shale Chambers.

The artwork is fully funded through the regional public art budget.

Last year, Lisa Reihana was selected as New Zealand’s artist for the 2017 Venice Biennale.